Younkins is properly concerned as American society becomes more and more
collectivized, as it is drawn into political coalitions to wangle favors
from shifty government. It’s that trade-off again. Let me quote Younkins
at length to get his answer to an unstable situation:
We need to return to the
political and economic foundation upon which our nation was born. We
must strengthen our commitment to individual freedom, free markets,
and private property rather than to statist regulatory government.
We must rid society of the statist notion that politics and the
political process best address people's needs and problems. We must
discredit the idea that the state exists to give citizens what they
want. We must refute the statist claim that there is a right to
education, health care, etc.
The role of the state should be confined to protecting the freedom
that allows individuals to pursue happiness or the good that each
defines for himself. Step-by- step we must eliminate government
agencies and cabinet departments except for Defense, Justice, State,
and Treasury. What would remain would be the executive, legislative,
and judicial branches but with greatly reduced powers.
Today, our freedoms are invaded by external government controls. The
less economic policy, the better. We must reduce as much as possible
the weight of the state and increase the jurisdiction of the market.
It is not regulation but individual action, private property rights,
competition, and fluctuating prices that force adaptation to
changing conditions and that promote efficient resource utilization.
Still I wonder: Is not Younkins himself a devotee of career and life
potentiality, if perhaps on a grander scale? I heartily agree with the
supposition and submit his exquisite trilogy as evidence. Our author
notes our heritage of individualism and freedom despite the enormous
change that characterized the American way of life with the long woeful
blot of slavery happily removed by passage of the Fourteenth Amendment
to the U.S. Constitution in 1868.
Meanwhile, Younkins views the Austrian School of Economics as going some
ways to meeting the eternal challenge of statism over freedom. He covers
thoroughly the work of Carl Menger (1840-1921), Ludwig von Mises
(1881-1973), and Murray Rothbard (1926-1995), who wrapped up the
Menger said economic action arises from the subjective values that
individuals deem necessary to satisfy their needs. He advanced a
means-ends rationality to explain economic cooperation in action,
explaining such concepts as money, rent, profit, interest, division of
labor, and so on. Younkins also applauds Menger for seeing early on how
Aristotelian rationality spurred Austrian economists to undo the master
trickery of the 1930s in the so-called “Keynesian Revolution” of Lord
John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946). Keynes boldly pushed big government
monetary and fiscal schemes to cut unemployment by “stimulating”
Depression-hit business activity in the 1930s.
Mises emphasized social cooperation via human action in his magnum opus
published in 1949, Human Action. He saw economics as an a
priori deductive science tending to maximize individual free choices
in society, given freedom, private property, and natural differences in
individual income, drive, and talent. Mises said limited government is
essential for a free market society, adding significantly: “Only the
individual thinks. Only the individual reasons. Only the individual
Enter Ayn Rand (1905-1982) into this dynamic drama. She also avows her
debt to Aristotle to reach and assess values and objectivity. A critical
value is ethics. Rand says ethics is objective, personal, and moral. She
justifies capitalism as a system based on moral justice. She advises:
Restore such justice as required.
Restoration is backed by her extraordinary novels, The Fountainhead
and Atlas Shrugged, which show businessmen as potentially heroic
characters, each novel portraying one or more businessmen who are
persistent, original, independent thinkers who pursue controversial
ideas to triumph. Her hit novels and their movie adaptations each show
at least one thinking business entrepreneur as a case of individualism
beating state collectivism, depicting business heroes as noble,
appealing, and larger than life.
Says Younkins: “Free markets always defeat industrial policy.” So to
break America’s overall interventionist structure he promotes ten steps,
including standardizing gold as money, privatizing public schools, and
gradually eliminating Social Security, Medicare, and public welfare so
as to gain a power-minimal state to better “protect contractual and
property rights and provide for America’s defense.”
Thus, Dear Reader, put on your thinking cap, invest time, and weigh
options, so as to consider the Younkins message most personally. After
all, you have a world to win.
Dr. William H. Peterson wrote the “Reading for Business” column in the Wall
Street Journal for 14 years. He was the 2005 recipient of the
Schlarbaum Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Cause of Human Liberty given by Ludwig von Mises Institute of Auburn, Alabama.
He died last June at age 91.